12 Ways To Make Your Passwords Stronger

Years ago, when you heard the word ‘password,’ you thought of what one said to gain entrance into your gang’s backyard clubhouse. Or maybe the ‘code’ one spy gave to another to verify he was the official contact. Or possibly you thought of the TV game show that Allen Ludden hosted and Betty White was a frequent contestant.

But today the word ‘password’ has come to mean something that most all of us use on a daily basis. In our world of technology, a password is a secret word or string of characters that is used for authentication, to prove identity, or gain access to information that we do not want others to know.

Because some of these ‘others’ living among us would simply love to know what we know and have what we have, we must make sure our passwords are ‘strong’, that is, difficult enough that they do not guess what they are.

Here are 10 suggestions for making your passwords stronger.

1. Use longer passwords that comprise 8’15 characters.

2. Take a memorable phrase or song title and use the first letter of each word for the password. For instance ‘to be or not to be, that is the question’ becomes ‘tbontbtitq.’

3. Capitalize certain characters of your password, say the second and third characters; hence ‘tbontbtitq’ becomes ‘tB0ntbtitq.’

4. Include numbers and symbols in your password like ` ! ‘ ? $ ? % ^ & * ( ) _ ‘ + = { [ } ] : ; @ ‘ ~ # | . ? /.

5. Avoid using information that is easily obtainable from your social network page like Facebook such as your first or last name, phone number, brand of car, street name, your family pet, or hobby.

6. Do not use a repetition of letters, characters, or numbers or use numbers in a sequence like ‘23456789’

7. Use different passwords for different kinds of sites ‘ email, social networks, financial institutions, and e-commerce sites ‘ and a different password for infrequently visited or untrustworthy sites.

8. Consider treating your password as multiple parts: a central core and a prefix and/or suffix when needed that is specific to the service the password protects. For example: your core might be ‘gPw4’ (that is, ‘generic Password for – ‘) and then if it’s a password for a newspaper website like the New York Times, you might choose to add ‘NYt’ to the beginning or end of the password (‘NYtgPw4’), while your password for eBay auctions might be ‘gPw4eBa’ and your Yahoo! email password could be ‘gP4Y!e’.

9. Have a totally separate password for email accounts. Many sites have ‘Forgot my password’ buttons that, when clicked, initiate a password-recovery process by email. Hackers who break into an email account can then intercept those emails and take control of each account registered using that address.

10. Include similar looking substitutions, such as the number zero for the letter ‘O’ or ‘$’ for the letter ‘S’.

11. Don’t use words or acronyms that can be found in a dictionary.

12. Include phonetic replacements, such as ‘Luv 2 Laf’ for ‘Love to Laugh’.

There are numerous ‘password testing’ sites where you can see how strong your password is and get valuable suggestions as to how you can make it more secure. Here are a few of the sites: www.microsoft.com/security/pc-security/password-checker.aspx, www.geekwisdom.com/dyn/passwdmeter, www.passwordmeter.com/, http://unwrongest.com/projects/password-strength/, http://://rumkin.com/tools/password/passchk.php.

– Jim Garnett.